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Pink Floyd - The Wall CD (album) cover

THE WALL

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.05 | 2031 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
5 stars The story of "The Wall" obsession.

Once upon a time there was a song on the radio and a teenager heard it and it changed his life. My quest for "The Wall" began at an impressionable age. I was 17. Every lyric I have become obsessed with, knowing it off by heart. I thought I was weird walking along humming the tunes and having the lyrics swirl in my teenage brain, but of course everyone in 1982 was talking about it due to the movie release. It seemed to go by unnoticed in 1979 in Australia. Before I get to the music, let me indulge. This is the 531st review so everything has been said anyway so here's a new slant.

I remember sitting in the sound lounge at college and a guy walked in and said you have to hear this. He put on In The Flesh and we sat there at lunch listening intently and seriously. He said these words I will never forget. ""The Wall" is the best album ever! The film is the best film ever! Pink Floyd are the best band ever!" Not exactly ground breaking words but somehow I could not get them out of my head. Now, you have to understand, I had never heard the album or even Pink Floyd but I was willing to give it a go after hearing a few songs I liked. Another Brick in the Wall part 2 was on the radio all the time. The music was excellent to my young ears, the consistent rhythm of Dm clanging on the clean guitar, almost reggae, that was the framework for some enigmatic lyrics "We don't need no education, we don't need no full control" I kind of agreed with that. It was rebellious and comforting at the same time. I liked the ominous vocals, the children choir rebelliously shouting the mantra. It all made perfect sense and there was nothing on the radio like this. The lead guitar solo was incredible, I had never heard a lot of great lead guitar being into the glam rock scene and a hopeless Kiss addict, but this was David Gilmour's guitar; soaring, harmonious and virtuoso guitar work that is unforgettable. It intrigued me and I knew I would eventually own it. These days as a teacher I cringe when I hear "No dark sarcasm in the classroom, teachers leave us kids alone", as that's what I do now!

I bought the single on vinyl in 1982, a re release to cash in on the movie, it was great to hear it pumping out the speakers but I knew I needed more. The B Side was One of my Turns and it was "cold as a razor blade, tight as a tourniquet, dry as a funeral drum...." the freakout section in the instrumental passage was creepy, so emotional and heavy, I was stunned. "Would you like to watch TV or get between the sheets or contemplate the silent freeway..." It was not a popular song to play in front of my parents that's for sure. I wanted to hear the rest. I had to save up big because it was a double album. But hey, I managed it delivering newspapers door to door.

Finally the day came. I walked into the music store and those white bricks screamed off the shelf. There was an entire section with a screaming face and grim teacher and tons of polystyrene bricks. It was a monument to the album. I pulled out the $20 note and grabbed the album. It felt good in my hands. Heavy like gold. "This is so popular," the young girl said behind the counter. I smiled. "I have been wanting this for ages." "Enjoy it", she said. So I bought this off the shelf brand new on vinyl after hearing so much about it in magazines and friends at college.

I raced home, locked my bedroom door and put it on the record player stereo system. The first crashing chord blasted, and then after a divine lengthy intro of choral voice harmonies, Waters estranged voice chimes out, "So you thought you might like to go to the show........" It was love at first listen. I was stunned at how the songs merged together, I had never encountered this on albums, the way it ran together seamlessly like one huge track, this was the first true prog album in my collection. The beginning of my obsession.

Waters is the backbone of the album and Gilmour's soft vocals and intricate guitar breaks are the skeletal structure for me. I always liked his contribution the best including the soft sweet, The Thin Ice, "Mother loves her babe and daddy loves her too...." It just sends a shiver down my spine every time. It is difficult to understand listening to it now as a cohesive work that the band were in turmoil. Rick Wright was eventually ejected from the band by the time the recording sessions ceased. The producer Bob Ezrin actually completed the album in Los Angeles using studio session musicians, can you believe that? Waters wrote, breathed, ate, slept this album; it was his baby and he nurtured it. The script, the concept, the entire screenplay of the burnt out musician was his idea right down to the references to poor old Syd. It is a magnum opus of epic proportions. I know many fans of this album that do not even like Pink Floyd, such is the impact of "The Wall".

The spirit of the album is encapsulated in a series of bonafide highlights that always jump out and bite me on every listen. It was always Gilmour who provided the most glorious tracks including the best track on it; the incredible Comfortably Numb. The low key verses are portentous and foreboding and then that uplifting chorus with vocal techniques that would be emulated by many prog artists especially Mostly Autumn's Josh, "There is no pain you are receding, a distant ship smoke on the horizon... when I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye, I turned to look and it was gone, I cannot put my finger on it now... " masterful, perfect, unforgettable. The lead guitar solo at the end of this is legendary and I have heard many live versions which are even better with an extended screaming solo section, while a massive chandelier UFO light contraption opens above the audience sending out cascading rays of light upon them. A magic moment.

Run Like Hell is an infamous concert closer for the band. This single begins with those scratching guitar scrapes and then the echoing trademark rhythm that we hear all through the album begins to chug along. The guitar 4 chord shapes to follow have been emulated by guitarists worldwide, and why not? They are fabulous atmospheric riffs. The lyrics were always edgy and dangerous, "Cos if they find you in the backseat trying to pick her locks, they're gonna send you back to mother in a cardboard box, you'd better run!"

Mother "do you think they'll drop the bomb... hush now baby baby don't you cry, mother's going to put all of her fears into you". At the time I had no idea what Waters was on about back in 1982 but since then the song has grown on me, I have even sung it as a lullaby to my kids (an abridged version), and it is a perfect song to learn guitar to with easy G C D F chords and a strong rhythm. Gilmour's guitar break is beautiful and sombre perfectly aligned with the melancholy tone... "Mother did it need to be so high" always troubled me.

Goodbye blue sky has a beautiful acoustic feel and ominous chords as the planes fly overhead, see the animation of Gerald Scarfe to gain full appreciation of this. I love the extended breathtaking line that is said without any breaks; "Did did did did you ever wonder why we had to run for shelter when the promise of a brave new world unfurled beneath a clear blue sky". I always sung that with a huge breath at the beginning. I loved the feel of this song and still count it as the best song on side 2.

Empty spaces is fabulous but there is a longer better version on the film with a crunching rhythm and lead solo.

Don't leave me now always resonated with me, I could sense the sheer hopelessness and it still has the same ethereal effect on my senses. A very powerful song that captures the sense of a breakup, losing a girl, "I need you babe to put through the shredder in front of my friends..."

Side 3 began with the incomparable acoustic flourishes and Gilmour's soothing warm vocals 'Hey you "out there in the cold getting lonely getting cold can you feel me... out there beyond the wall". A delicate song excised from the film but always has a dear place in my heart.

Is there anybody out there! maybe overlooked by many but that atmosphere is chilling and the acoustic instrumental is melancholy and lovely, almost uplifting. It is the scariest part in the film too, where Geldof shaves, becomes insanely obsessive creating a war scene with rubbish and broken record pieces, and later is found in the asylum by the war torn child. The picture of a total breakdown and burn out.

Nobody home is notable for the cool lyrics, that I like especially "I've got wild staring eyes, and I've got a strong urge to fly, but I've got nowhere to fly to... when I pick up the phone, there'll be nobody home". This is emotional lyrical work at its best. The aftermath of a broken marriage.

Waiting for the worms is another would be throwaway but essential to the whole concept of the dictator rock star with delusions of godhood. "Waiting... to cut off the dead wood, ....to clean out the city, ....to fire the ovens... for the blacks and the jews"; the nazi references are quite astonishing and used to pummel my impressionable ears. It finishes with a huge loud instrumental that builds to a crescendo before "Stop!"

The trial was the most played song when I was a teen, I loved the weirdness of it, the various sections, the characters, especially the ex wife.... "you should've talked to me more often that you did, but no, you had to go your own way, have you broken any homes up lately, just 5 minutes, worm your honour, him and me alone..." It was a rock opera and I was not prepared at the time for such an incredible finale. On stage of course this section is a highlight. I saw it live with a Tribute band and they nailed this song, receiving a standing ovation.

The last song Outside the wall is the weakest and I have no idea what its saying but I always loved the way it finished abruptly. It is strange too that if you want to put the whole album onto a CD you have to leave this last song off or it will not fit. Did Pink Floyd do that on purpose, how would they know?

Pink Floyd's "The Wall" was the first album I truly immersed myself in as a teenager, the concept, the music, the lyrics, the sleeve art; everything captured my young imagination and it has never left my consciousness. I will never forget the incredible impact of hearing actual dialogue on an album, an actual storyline, I had never even dreamed bands would do this. The album was a monster in its day reaching top position on the US charts and it made it to No. 3 in the UK. The filmclip of the Brick single was on so much I got sick of seeing it. In a sense I have become too used to the music on the album and the impact has lessened but there is no denying that this is an epic achievement.

The live performances of the show have become legendary from both the Gilmour Pink Floyd and Water's version. He always went to greater lengths as it was his child, but the Berlin Wall came down and Pink Floyd celebrated with a full rendition of this album that is still one of the century's best ever concerts, featuring a plethora of guest artists. The movie directed by Alan Parker starring Bob Geldof as Pink, arrived in 1982, further enhancing the experience of the album. I persuaded my friend to drive me to the drive in and we sat there absolutely in awe watching the story unfold; a story that I had memorised in my head. It was a moment of clarity for me. I bought the movie lyrics book that has huge colour photos throughout. The images are powerful in any format. The album transcends mere music; like it or loathe it, "The Wall" is a monumental event. If this review hasn't convinced you, nothing will.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |

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